Christie Letarte: Serving the public interest through education and the law

by Alexandria Nicodemi, 2L

Spring 2013 alumna Christie Letarte is a staff attorney for the Florida Senate Committee on Education. Her career combines her passion for education and the law.

“I knew in some capacity that I wanted to be in public interest,” said Christie. “My undergraduate school [College of the Holy Cross] had a mission statement that was about being men and women for others and that stuck with me. I took it to heart. I wanted to do something that would allow me to give back.”

Christie’s interest in attending law school began when Stetson Law professor Peter Lake spoke at the University of Connecticut where Christie was completing a graduate degree in higher education and student affairs. She said Professor Lake inspired her to focus on an educational law career with a public interest concentration.

While at Stetson Law, Christie was involved with the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy. She took professor Robert Bickel’s Civil Rights Movement course and interned with the General Counsel at the University of South Florida. After taking the bar, Christie said Stetson’s Career Development office informed her of an opening with the Florida Senate Committee on Education.

Christie explained that her job is dynamic, characterized by the legislative session calendar. During the 60-day session, bills are drafted, reviewed and eventually passed into law.

“The office is never static,” said Christie.

The committee encourages public involvement in the state education system, providing information and facts on current issues in order for senators to make informed decisions. The education bills Christie works with range from administering classroom supply assistance programs to the renaming of collegiate institutions. The beginning of the year is marked by monthly committee meetings in anticipation of the upcoming legislative session, when bills are created and Christie’s focus shifts to the technical issues behind each bill.

“When bills first come through our office, we analyze them for some technical, and possibly constitutional issues and what the financial impact may be,” Christie said.

In the summer, Christie said that her office follows up on the implementation of the bills that became law.

“There is always something new to learn, something new to look up and no matter what, I am always doing meaningful work with great people,” said Christie. “If I’m able to do that, that’s the jackpot right there.”